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Here are the topics covered for 31st October 2023:
GS-2: Electoral Bonds Scheme, UN General Assembly
GS-3: Cloud Seeding, Ammonia as a potential fuel
Facts for Prelims: KAZIND-2023, One Nation – One student ID
Electoral Bonds Scheme
- The electoral bonds scheme in India, which allows for anonymous donations to political parties, is currently under scrutiny by the Supreme Court. A Constitution Bench is set to hear final arguments in a case challenging the scheme, and the outcome of this legal battle could have a significant impact on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The case has been pending in the Supreme Court for over eight years.
About the Electoral Bonds Scheme:
- Electoral bonds are financial instruments like promissory notes that can be purchased by companies and individuals in India from authorized branches of the State Bank of India (SBI).
- These bonds can be bought in various denominations and donated to political parties.
- The key feature is that the name and details of the donor are not disclosed, making these donations anonymous.
- There is no limit on the number of bonds that a person or company can purchase.
- The scheme was introduced in 2017 to promote transparency in political funding by allowing donations through legitimate financial channels.
- The bonds are issued at specified times during the year.
Challenges to the Scheme:
- Two petitions have challenged the scheme in the Supreme Court, arguing that it enables unlimited political donations and allows for anonymous funding of political parties.
- Critics contend that this can lead to electoral corruption and violates a citizen\’s right to know about political funding.
- The scheme\’s amendments to key legislations have also been challenged. These include changes to the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) and the Companies Act, which have implications for political funding and transparency.
- One significant issue is that the amendments to these legislations were passed as Money Bills, bypassing the scrutiny of the Rajya Sabha, and allegedly circumventing the democratic process.
Concerns Raised by ECI and RBI:
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) has expressed concerns that electoral bonds could undermine transparency in political funding and could be used by foreign corporate entities to influence Indian politics.
- The amendments related to the scheme could also lead to the formation of shell companies solely for political donations.
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has raised concerns about the potential for increased black money circulation, money laundering, and cross-border financial issues.
- The upcoming Supreme Court decision could have far-reaching implications for political funding and transparency in India. The court\’s decision will be eagerly awaited, especially given the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
- The ruling will not only impact the electoral bonds scheme but could also set a precedent regarding the passage of critical legislation such as Money Bills to bypass parliamentary scrutiny.
- The decision will have consequences for transparency and accountability in Indian democracy and could potentially influence future political funding regulations.
UN General Assembly
- India\’s decision to abstain from voting on the UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution for a ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict has been explained as a protest against the omission of an \”explicit condemnation\” of the October 7 terror attack by Hamas militants on Israel.
- While India\’s principled stance against terrorism is clear, the article suggests that New Delhi missed an opportunity to play a more active role in addressing the ongoing violence and garnering global solidarity.
- The resolution in question does include a paragraph condemning all acts of violence, including terrorism, against Palestinian and Israeli civilians.
- India could have taken a more proactive diplomatic approach, such as proposing an amendment to ensure clearer mention of the October 7 attacks. This could have been done during Prime Minister recent conversation with Jordan\’s King Abdullah bin Al Hussein about the conflict.
- Alternatively, India could have voted in favor of the motion while recording in its Explanation of Vote (EoV) that it regretted the omission of specific references to the October 7 attacks, similar to what France did.
- India\’s EoV did not name Hamas as responsible for the attacks, leaving some doubt about the explicit mentions that New Delhi wanted.
- On the other hand, if India wanted to take a strong anti-terrorism stance, it could have voted against the resolution, aligning itself with the U.S., the U.K., and Israel.
- India\’s abstention signals a shift in its approach, opting for a more cautious position rather than taking a strong stand on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
- This is seen as a departure from India\’s 2018 UNGA vote, where it called for Israel to cease \”excessive force\” during retaliatory strikes on Gaza, and more in line with its decision to abstain from votes at the UN in 2021 on resolutions critical of Russia\’s war in Ukraine.
- India missed an opportunity to have its voice heard in a growing geopolitical conflict and to play a more active role on the global stage.
- Abstaining from a matter of global importance without making efforts to build a consensus is seen as inconsistent with India\’s aspirations to represent the Global South and secure a prominent place at the global decision-making table.
- A recent study published in the journal Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society has found that cloud seeding can be effective in boosting precipitation in water-scarce regions.
About Cloud Seeding:
- Cloud seeding is a process where clouds are artificially induced to produce rain. This is achieved by introducing certain particles, such as silver iodide crystals, into the clouds. These particles serve as nuclei around which water droplets can form and eventually fall as precipitation.
- It is a cost-effective and relatively easy-to-implement solution for enhancing rainfall in drought-prone regions.
Key Highlights of the Study:
- CAIPEEX Phase-4 Investigation: This two-year study aimed to assess the effectiveness of hygroscopic seeding in deep convective clouds and develop a cloud seeding protocol. It utilised calcium chloride flares for cloud seeding and involved two aircraft for cloud parameter study and cloud seeding.
- Cloud Seeding\’s Effectiveness: The study demonstrates that cloud seeding can enhance rainfall under suitable conditions. Specific cloud characteristics, like liquid water content and vertical motion, were used to identify clouds with potential for rainfall. Approximately 20-25% of cumulus clouds produced rainfall when seeding was executed correctly.
- The study provides insights into the cost-benefit ratio of cloud seeding, indicating that the cost of producing water through cloud seeding was 18 paisa per litre during the research experiment. Using indigenous seeding aircraft could reduce costs by more than 50%. While cloud seeding alone cannot fully mitigate droughts, it can contribute to an 18% increase in rainfall, partially addressing water requirements, particularly in water-scarce regions.
- Cloud seeding is seen as a potential solution for regions like Solapur, which receive low rainfall due to their location on the leeward side of the Western Ghats. The additional water obtained through cloud seeding has the potential to alleviate water scarcity issues in such areas.
- Cloud seeding should be integrated into broader catchment-scale projects for drought management, focusing on sustainable water resource management.
- Cloud seeding holds promise as a tool for addressing water scarcity and enhancing rainfall in drought-prone regions, as demonstrated by the CAIPEEX Phase-4 investigation.
- However, responsible and well-regulated practices, along with ongoing research and development, are essential for harnessing the full potential of cloud seeding while minimizing its environmental impact
Ammonia as a potential fuel
- Ammonia has recently gained attention in the automotive industry. It is being explored as a potential fuel for internal combustion engines, offering an alternative propulsion technology that bridges the gap between traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) systems and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs).
About ICE Systems and BEV Systems:
- Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Systems: These vehicles use traditional engines that burn fossil fuels like petrol or diesel to generate power. They rely on the explosion resulting from the combustion of fuel mixed with air to drive the vehicle\’s wheels. ICE vehicles are common in cars, trucks, and motorcycles but emit exhaust gases contributing to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs): BEVs are electric vehicles powered solely by rechargeable batteries that drive an electric motor. They require electricity from the grid for charging, which can be generated from various sources, including renewable energy. BEVs produce zero tailpipe emissions, making them environmentally friendly.
Advantages of Using Ammonia as a Fuel:
- High Energy Density: Ammonia boasts a high energy density, making it suitable for long-term applications. It can store and release a significant amount of energy, outperforming lithium-ion batteries and compressed hydrogen.
- Low Carbon Emissions: Ammonia has the potential to produce near-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during combustion, presenting an environmentally friendly choice, particularly when compared to fossil fuels.
- Bridge Fuel: Ammonia can serve as a bridge fuel, reducing dependence on traditional fossil fuels and facilitating a transition to cleaner energy sources. It can enhance energy security by diversifying the energy mix and reducing reliance on a single energy source.
Challenges Associated with Using Ammonia:
- Environmental Impact: While ammonia has the potential for near-zero CO2 emissions during combustion, current ammonia engines emit exhaust gases, including unburned ammonia and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which pose environmental and health risks.
- Production Challenges: Traditional ammonia production relies on the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process, often fueled by fossil fuels. Green ammonia production, which utilizes renewable energy and sustainable hydrogen sources, is still in the early stages of development and faces cost and scalability challenges.
- Toxicity: Ammonia is highly toxic to both humans and the environment if not handled properly. Accidents or mishandling could have severe consequences due to its toxicity and corrosiveness.
- Fuel Quality Standards: Establishing consistent quality standards for ammonia as a fuel can be complex, especially when it is produced from various sources with varying levels of impurities.
- Investment in research and development is essential to create more efficient and cleaner ammonia engines.
- Implement comprehensive training programs for workers in the ammonia industry to ensure proper handling, safety protocols, and emergency response training.
- Develop market incentives, such as tax credits or subsidies, to encourage the adoption of ammonia as a fuel, particularly in sectors where its use can have a significant positive impact, like maritime transport.
Facts for prelims
- The 7th edition of the joint military exercise \’KAZIND-2023\’ has commenced in Otar, Kazakhstan, and will continue until November 11, 2023.
- The exercise, initially known as \”Exercise PRABAL DOSTYK\” in 2016, was later renamed \”Exercise KAZIND\” and elevated to a company-level exercise.
- This year, it has been upgraded to a bi-service exercise, incorporating the Air Force component.
- The primary focus of the current edition is to conduct counter-terrorism operations within a sub-conventional setting, operating under a United Nations mandate.
One Nation – One student ID
- The \”One Nation, One Student ID\” initiative, based on the National Education Policy of 2020, introduces the Automated Permanent Academic Account Registry (APAAR) to provide students with lifelong unique IDs. This system aims to streamline education by reducing the need for physical documents and serves as a gateway to the Digilocker for storing academic records.
- APAAR IDs link to the Academic Bank Credit (ABC), storing students\’ academic credits throughout their education journey. When students change schools, their data is seamlessly transferred to the new school using the APAAR ID, eliminating the need for physical documents.
- Enrollment for APAAR is voluntary, and students or parents must provide basic information, including Aadhar details. Concerns about privacy have arisen, with worries about data leaks. The government assures that shared information remains confidential and is only used for educational purposes.
- The Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) database plays a role in this system but lacks specific data protection guidelines.
- UDISE+ is a large management information system for school education, launched in 2018-2019 to improve data quality and streamline school-related information.
- In summary, the \”One Nation, One Student ID\” initiative aims to simplify education processes and reduce fraud, though concerns about data privacy remain among parents and students.